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#BookBeginnings The Horse Whisperer

Today we have an older novel, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you’re finished add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-horse-whisperer

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Published in 1995, this is probably the oldest book on the The Bestseller Code 100 challenge list. It was Nicholas Evans’s debut novel and was made into a movie with the same title.

Here’s the movie trailer:

 

Summary:  A desperate mother risks everything to seek out an horse expert on the hope he can help save her daughter’s broken down horse and perhaps her deeply-wounded daughter, as well.

First Sentence of The Horse Whisperer:

There was death at its beginning as there would be death again at its end.

Discussion:

I read this book when it first came out and I remember the emotional gist of it, if not the details. It will be interesting to read it again to see how well it has withstood the test of time.

Have you read The Horse Whisperer? Your thoughts?

Food for Thought: Comparing Five Novels

After digesting too many serious book reviews for our Bestseller Code 100 Reading challenge, let’s ask:  If the novels we just read were types of food, what would they be?

 

novels-as-type-of-food

96. The Last Child by John Hart

Hors d’oeuvres – the tension of the unknown.  You are never quite sure what each morsel might be – satisfying, horrendous, or it could bite back! (Karen)

This book deserves something wild, unusual and also from North Carolina. What about fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, and wild boar? (Roberta)

 

95. The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

Boston cream pie – sweet and slides down easily, but not very substantial. (Karen)

 cherry-pie-food
Public domain photo via VisualHunt.com

I’m going to go with pie, too, in honor of the bakery that figures prominently in the story. This novel is so sweet it has to be a dessert. (Roberta)

94. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson

Given how much coffee the characters drink and how over-caffeinated the story is, coffee is an obvious choice.  How about espresso and bagels? If you’ve finished the story, you’ll know the significance of this. (Roberta)

Coffee, for sure.  You’d almost need a drip line to get enough caffeine in.  (Karen)

93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout

Succotash – something good for you but difficult to swallow.  (Karen)

As a nod to the setting, Maine baked beans seems the logical choice. They take hours of work to prepare and turn out more mundane than you had hoped. (Roberta)

92. One Day by David Nicholls

Would it be cheating to go for a drink here? Dexter has a bit of a drinking problem. Plus, the reader just might want a drink after certain parts of the book. (Roberta)

‘No, you’re drunk! You’re always drunk or off your face on something or other, every time I see you. D’you realise I literally haven’t seen you sober for, what, three years?’

Public domain photo via Visual hunt

I’m going with peanuts.  Emma worked for peanuts for a number of years and Dex probably ate a lot of them at all the bars he was at.  Do they serve peanuts with martinis & champagne, or is that only with beer? (Karen)

What about you? Do you associate any of these novels with food?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of One Day by David Nicholls

Let’s take a look at the most recent novel in The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, One Day by David Nicholls, from a writer’s perspective. The discussion began February 27, 2017.

This post contains spoilers.

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Dexter and Emma meet at the University of Edinburgh, and they spend graduation night together on July 15, 1988. The story follows how the relationship progresses each year on July 15, running through July 15, 2006.

Plot/Structure

Can you imagine how difficult this novel must have been to plot? Told chronologically (for the most part), it is built on events that occur on only one day every year. David Nicholls has restricted himself by this premise on top of the usual issues of pacing, rising conflict, etc.

The good news is that he tells it beautifully. Nothing is predictable, yet the story flows seamlessly as time progresses. It’s like watching a complex and flawless juggling act. You have to applaud.

Character Development

Having two main characters vying for attention is also not easy to manage. Readers tend to prefer one clear protagonist. Once again, Nicholls is able to pull it off.

As Karen points out in her review,  the main characters are flawed, but much more likeable than the titular character in Olive Kitteridge. Dexter starts out irresponsible and immature. Emma is more mature, but lacks self confidence. Both have plenty of room to grow and change over the years, which gives satisfying character arcs.

Dialogue

‘I keep getting your brothers muddled up.’

‘A good way to remember it is Sam’s hateful and Murray’s foul.’

“Don’t think they like me very much.’

‘They don’t like anyone apart from themselves.’

Nicholls doesn’t get to tied down by a lot of dialogue tags, perhaps because of he started out acting and writing screenplays.

In the book beginnings post, we had a discussion about the fact this novel uses single quotations for dialogue. Apparently this is acceptable for novels published in Britain. Perhaps everyone should adopt it, as it takes up less space and requires the writer to spend less time shifting on the keyboard.

Setting

Although the two main characters meet at the University of Edinburgh, much of the novel takes place in London. The physical setting isn’t as prominent as in some of the other novels we’ve read so far. Perhaps, again, that comes from the author’s background as a screenwriter.

That said, the cultural setting is a significant part of the story.

 


Public domain photo via Visual hunt

 

My Personal Comments About One Day

The best part of One Day is the way it explores how relationships form and change over time. We’ve probably all met people we had chemistry with, but for any number of reasons the relationships did not develop. Things get in the way such as opposing jobs/careers, not being ready for a relationship, age differences, one or both parties already have partners, cultural/religious differences, etc.  David Nicholls gives us hope that even though some of these windows to the heart are closed at one point in our lives, perhaps in the future they may reopen. In that way, it might not be so different from the ending message in Olive Kitteridge, which is about finding love and companionship during the autumn years. Maybe it is this message about openness to relationships that has put these two novels on The Bestseller Code 100 list.

Have you read One Day? What did you think?

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.
__________________

What are we reading next for The Bestseller Code 100 challenge?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is 91. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls is next on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

David Nicholls’ One Day*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

One Day follows the lives of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley over the course of about twenty years, beginning July 15, 1988, the day they both graduate from university.  In the opening scene, they are lying in bed together, discussing the future and what they see for themselves now that college is over.  Even though they seem to have little in common and their lives take divergent paths, “Dex” and “Em” maintain a connection that is revealed as each subsequent chapter covers the events on the same date each year, July 15th.

It was interesting to read this book right after Olive Kitteridge.

In Olive Kitteridge, the main character, Olive, is revealed through her interactions with others and her own inner thoughts.  Each chapter introduces new characters and settings that in some way impact Olive, an ungainly and cranky woman who has difficulty finding her place within her community and difficulty connecting on an intimate, emotional level with those closest to her, including her own husband and son.  It’s only at the very end of the book that Olive realizes she has let opportunities for intimacy pass by and decides she doesn’t want to be alone anymore.  Unfortunately, I never really connected with Olive and thus didn’t really care at the end what her self-revelations were.

In One Day, we learn about Dexter and Emma through their own thoughts and actions and their interplay with each other in each chapter.  In the very first chapter, where their relationship begins with what Dexter intended to be a one-night stand, we see their short-comings, their fears, their loneliness.  For the most part, they already know who they are.  Throughout the book we see how they navigate adulthood and try to follow their dreams.  We follow the ups and downs of their relationship and wonder if they will ever admit to each other the true depth of their feelings.

I was able to connect with Dexter and Emma.  Their uncertainties, their dreams, their actions, all seemed believable.  I’ve felt them; I know friends and relatives that have done and acted similarly.  What wasn’t clear to me, and wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book, is why their bond formed on that very first day.  Exactly what did Emma see in Dexter that led her to hang on to their friendship through the difficult times (although she did ultimately break off communications for a couple of years).  Those last chapters in the book revealed new depths to Dexter, depths we might not have believed if we had seen them at the beginning of the book, given his subsequent actions.

I really liked One Day and thought it was the book that Olive Kitteridge wanted to be.

Both Olive Kitteridge and One Day were made into movies and I’m looking forward to watching both and comparing the movies to the books.  Have you read the books?  Seen the movies?  Tell me what you thought of either, or both!

 

What did you think of One Day? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. One Day landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

_________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 91 on the list, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017.  This books is classified as Literary Fiction.

#BookBeginnings Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

Today we’re highlighting Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. Once you’ve posted, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-michael-koryta

Those Who Wish Me Dead* by Michael Koryta

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

I read and liked Michael Koryta’s first two novels, Tonight I Said Goodbye and Sorrow’s Anthem. The main characters of both novels were private investigators who seemed to really know the business. After taking a writing workshop with Mr. Koryta, I found out why.  He has a degree in criminal justice and has worked as a private investigator. No wonder the details were realistic.

This thriller is a sharp change of direction from his previous works.

Summary:   Jace Wilson is the only witness to a murder, so the authorities must protect him. They give him a new identity and send him to a remote wilderness-survival program to hide. It isn’t long, however, before the highly-motivated killers are on his track.

First Sentence:

On the last day of Jace Wilson’s life, the fourteen-year-old stood on the quarry ledge staring at the cool, still water and finally understood something his mother had told him years before:  Trouble might come for you when you showed fear, but trouble doubled-down when you lied about being afraid.

Discussion:

“On the last day of Jace Wilson’s life…”? Those first few words are quite a hook.

Have you read anything by Michael Koryta? Have you read this book?

I always forget when to hyphenate ages, but in this quote “fourteen-year-old” is a noun, so I think it is properly hyphenated.

What do you think?

#BestsellerCode100: Number 92 One Day By David Nicholls

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, One Day by David Nicholls

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Starting on July 15, 1988 and running through July 15, 2006, the story reveals how Dexter and Emma’s relationship progresses on one day each year, July 15.

One Day was also made into a movie.

one-day-david-nicholls

Have you read One Day? Watched the movie? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about One Day? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 91. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Olive Kitteridge Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of Olive Kitteridge?

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

You can also join us on social media:

___________________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 92. One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017

#BookBeginnings One Day by David Nicholls

Today we’re highlighting a novel originally published in 2010, One Day by David Nicholls, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you’re done, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hurwitz

One Day* by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Starting on July 15, 1988 and running through July 15, 2006, the story unfolds by revealing how Dexter and Emma’s relationship progresses on one day each year, July 15.

Of course they made it into a movie.

Note:  We’re reading this book next for The Bestseller Code 100 challenge.

First Sentence:

‘I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,’ she said. ‘You know, actually change something.’

Discussion:

Does anyone know why the author uses single quotation marks for the dialogue? I looked and it seems to be carried throughout the book.

Seems like an interesting premise for a book.

What do you think?

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Analysis of Olive Kitteridge

Let’s analyze Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout from a writer’s perspective. The discussion began February 13, 2017.

This post contains spoilers.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

This title won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2009, so you would think it would be easy to review from a writer’s perspective. Obviously, it was chosen as the best novel written that year. I should be gushing about the writing. So why am I having so much difficulty?

One reason may be the novel is:

olive-kitterage-literary-fiction

Literary fiction has its own pace. To use an analogy, literary fiction is a slow drive through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon. The pace is slow. It meanders. It looks at the pretty scenery.  The car (plot) occasionally encounters some bad weather or a pothole or two,  but all in all it is a leisurely trip.

Compare that to a genre fiction, such as mysteries. In mysteries you don’t know where you are going, but you are usually traveling along at highway speeds, so you’re going to arrive in a reasonable amount of time. You are probably going to have some near misses and perhaps encounter some real danger to keep you alert.

Thrillers are the opposite of literary fiction. In a thriller the plot charges like a race car in a fight for its life. The events occur at a lightning fast pace and your adrenaline is flowing. The scenery may be reduced to a blur, with your focus directed to what’s ahead.

The bottom line is that sometimes you want to be in a race car and sometimes a Sunday drive is what you need. For whatever reason, I didn’t enjoy traveling in the car with Olive Kitteridge.

Plot/Structure

Unlike the rest of the novels we’ve read so far, this novel is organized into 13 short stories. As to be expected with literary fiction, the story does not proceed chronologically, but jumps back and forth in time.

Character

The main character is a woman named Olive Kitteridge. During the first part of her life she is a school teacher. She is curmudgeonly. She treats her husband Henry badly — for no apparent reason — and clashes with her son. In short, she has all the flaws of a real person.  Many readers will find her a difficult character to like, to identify with, or to root for.

Setting

Olive Kitteridge lives in the small town of Crosby, Maine. From the very first line, it is apparent that the author lives in Maine and has a strong connection to the state. The handling of the setting was outstanding.

 

maine-olive-kitteridge
Public domain photo via Visual hunt

Themes

Themes are usually well-developed in literary fiction, and this novel is no exception. The theme of suicide reoccurs throughout the short stories. There’s also a theme of how people struggle with love and relationships.  Another theme is loss, such as loss of youth and loss of Olive’s son when he moves to California, etc.

My Personal Comments About Olive Kitteridge

I know how difficult writing a novel is and usually I try not to be too hard on an author if he or she makes a few mistakes.  Because this novel has received so many accolades, however, I don’t mind being honest about not liking it. Specifically, although other reviewers have commented on the profound emotional impact of the stories, I felt manipulated. There were too many artificial constructs and convenient coincidences. For example, the scene in the hospital rang completely false to me. Stopping at  a hospital to use the bathroom when they were only 15 minutes from home was moderately contrived. Keeping her there for an exam was illogical and unrealistic. To have men with guns show up to steal drugs on top of it was so flimsy it made me roll my eyes. Yes, random bad things do occur in real life, but to me it all happened to set up a confrontation. I was unable to suspend my disbelief. I could see the author’s hand under the puppets.

Good thing I’m not a member of the Pulitzer Prize committee.

Have you read Olive Kitteridge? What did you think?

Join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is 92. One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is next on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2009.  It was reviewed with phrases such as “Perceptive, deeply empathetic,” (O: The Oprah Magazine); “Glorious, powerful stuff,” (USA Today); “gutsy emotional punch,” (Entertainment Weekly); and “Mesmerizing,” (Tampa Tribune).   And, it was liked so well that it was made into an HBO mini-series.  Mesmerizing?  Really?! Did they read the same Olive Kitteridge that I read?

Olive Kitteridge consists of a series of short stories involving the residents of fictional Crosby, Maine.  The stories span twenty-five years and each story introduces new characters; however, in each story Olive Kitteridge herself makes an appearance.  Olive is a retired middle-school math teacher who is married to the town’s pharmacist, Henry.  Olive and Henry have one son, Christopher, who appears in a couple of the thirteen chapters.  Olive is a very difficult person to like.  She’s gruff, abrupt, and emotionally volatile. In some of the short stories we see glimmers of more positive characteristics, but throughout the book, Olive rarely takes the high road in any situation and rarely sees the positive in any situation.

Small Town Lives

The small town lives that author Elizabeth Strout presents are sad, depressed, and lonely – lives filled with jealousy and adultery.  Only rarely are we given glimpses of love, hope, faith, happiness.  I have spent the majority of my life living in small town America and it saddens me to think that people reading Olive Kitteridge will believe that fictional Crosby is representative of small town life.  Yes, people in small towns can be petty and it is impossible to avoid the rumor mill.  Adultery does exist, as does suicide, another running theme throughout Olive Kitteridge.  But my experience is that small town America is also filled with hopeful, helping, optimistic, and loving people.  It is possible in small town America to live a good and happy life, positively affecting those around you and bettering the world.  Olive Kitteridge shows us none of that.

It was only the very last chapter that I felt made the book possibly worth reading.  In the last chapter, Olive overcomes her fears and loneliness to reach out to another, admitting that she needs love, even admitting to herself that she squandered the love she had with her husband Henry.  Only in the last chapter did I feel there was any real character growth.  Maybe it took twelve chapters to show us the true Olive, warts and all, so we could appreciate her choice in the final chapter?  For me, it wasn’t enough.

 

What did you think of Olive Kitteridge? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. Olive Kitteridge landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

_________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 92 on the list, One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017.  This books is classified as Contemporary Fiction.

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